John Wayne as Lon “McQ” McHugh, taciturn Seattle PD lieutenant
Seattle, Fall 1973
Release Date: February 6, 1974
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Luster Bayless
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
What do you get when you mix Dirty Harry’s attitude with Bullitt’s cinematic style and a twist of neo-noir influence? Why, you get McQ, the 1974 crime drama that marked one of Wayne’s few non-Western and non-war movies in his storied career.
John Wayne was just shy of 67 years old when McQ was released in theaters. He vocally regretted not accepting the lead role in Dirty Harry that would cement Clint Eastwood’s superstardom. In the three years since, Eastwood had already starred in two films as Harry Callahan with another soon to follow.
The McQ creative team, with veteran director John Sturges at the helm, revived the original Seattle setting of Dirty Harry and also capitalized on the success of films like Bullitt by connecting action set pieces with impressive car chases; in fact, the “McQ” moniker may have been an attempt at signaling Steve McQueen’s name and success in that role.
Wayne plays Lon “McQ” McHugh, a tough detective-lieutenant with the Seattle Police Department frequently disgusted by politics interfering with his ability to lawfully exact justice. He’s hounded by assassins, drug peddlers, and hoodlums through the film, culminating in the tragic destruction of his “brewster green” 1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am… a brand-new American sports car in hunter green. Hm.
After a much-needed hospital visit, McQ is back in action, this time with his deceased partner’s widow Lois (Diana Muldaur), who may know more about their gun-toting pursuers than she lets on.
The chase leads McQ and Lois to a beach, where stunt coordinator Ronnie Rondell and stuntmen Hal Needham and Gary McLarty executed an impressive rollover stunt with the blue Cadillac sedan pursuing Lois’ 1969 Pontiac Belvedere. For an entertaining read about the stunt process (and its nearly fatal execution), check out this 2014 Road & Track article by Alex Nunez.
Thank you to Craig, a great BAMF Style reader and Patreon supporter, who sent me a copy of the McQ DVD, allowing me to respond to the several requests I’ve received to write about John Wayne’s wardrobe in the film.
What’d He Wear?
McQ wears a heavy birdseye tweed jacket and striped tie for an evening of highballs with Lois that eventually becomes his outfit for the rest of the film. Tweed is a fine choice, as its durability is key for the amount of car stunts, gunfights, and beatings to which McQ is subjected during the movie’s latter scenes. Whether intentional or not, it also nods to Wayne’s significant Scots-Irish heritage.
McQ’s gray single-breasted sport jacket is large-scaled birdseye tweed with taupe striping. The three-button stance nicely balances John Wayne’s 6’4″ height, and he often wears the top two buttons fastened, correctly leaving the bottom button undone. The two smaller buttons on the cuff are, like those on the front, sew-through buttons with two holes.
Tweed’s rough durability makes it a staple of British country clothing, and tweed jackets often incorporate sporty details such as the swelled edges and patch pockets seen on McQ’s jacket.
John Wayne’s already imposing physique is emphasized with padded, roped shoulders. Though cut and detailed similarly to his other jackets, this is the only one with double vents – and long ones fashionable to the ’70s, at that – rather than the single vent of his navy blazer and charcoal flannel suit jacket.
McQ wears a sky blue poplin shirt with a edge-stitched details, including the fashionably large semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and rounded barrel cuffs with two buttons to close.
Of course an all-American like John Wayne would wear a red, white, and blue tie. His crimson repp tie has thin sets of stripes in dark navy, beige, and dark navy… naturally following the American stripe direction pointing up to the right shoulder.
McQ wears a pair of taupe wool flat front slacks that may be a shade too similar to his sport jacket as deeper contrast is always preferred when pairing trousers with an odd jacket. These trousers have side pockets, jetted back pockets, that close with a button, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
The wide belt loops accommodate a thick black leather belt with a large brass single-prong buckle. McQ wears his new Browning Hi-Power secured to the left side of his belt for a cross-hand draw from a tan leather holster.
McQ wears black leather slip-on loafers with black socks.
For his nocturnal escapades in the impound lot, McQ adds an extra layer with a khaki raincoat. The coat has set-in sleeves, a 5-button covered fly front, single-button cuffs, and handwarmer side pockets.
On his right wrist, John Wayne wears a simple brass Montagnard bracelet that gifted to him by the indigenous Montagnard people of Vietnam during the filming of The Green Berets in 1968. Modern Forces Living History Group reports that many American servicemen returned from Vietnam with these bracelets from the tribe, signifying friendship or respect.
Manready Mercantile offers a striking replica of the “Montagnard Bracelet” in brass, copper, or steel (link), where they explain that “not only did Duke don the bracelet on his wrist until the day he passed, it’s said he lays with it to this day.”
McQ’s watch doesn’t get much dedicated screen time, but it’s worn in the same manner that John Wayne would typically wear his timepieces with the face on the inside of his wrist. It appears to be a gold chronograph, surprisingly small in diameter for a man of Wayne’s size, with a silver dial (with three sub-dials), worn on a drab vinyl strap that closes with a buckle.
John Wayne’s real life preference for Rolex watches has been well documented, but I can’t say conclusively whether this is a Rolex or not. The closest model would likely be a Rolex Daytona with a slate dial and a custom band, such as this model 116523 currently offered for $10,995.
A Rolex Magazine article from November 2016 has a great pictoral history of Wayne’s Rolex history, including some great images of The Duke sporting his DateJust while vacationing at his Acapulco resort.
John Wayne might’ve gotten famous firing six-shooters on horseback, but McQ reinvented the actor’s image as he fired fully automatic rounds from a MAC-10 out the side window of a Plymouth sedan after using up all the rounds from his “wonder nine” Browning Hi-Power.
As a veteran cop in the ’70s, Lieutenant McHugh begins the film with a standard .38 Special revolver, but – once both are taken away from him following his resignation from the force – he’s force to load up on his own. A trip to Warshal’s Sporting Goods in Seattle yielded both the high-capacity pistol he was seeking in the form of a Browning Hi-Power as well as the chance to covertly “borrow” a MAC-10.
McQ’s choice of a Browning Hi-Power for his personal sidearm may have been influenced by Frank Serpico, the maverick NYPD cop who was portrayed by Al Pacino in the previous year’s Serpico. The fictional McHugh finds himself in a similar situation as both the real and cinematic Serpico, constantly in danger as he tirelessly works to uncover a conspiracy that lead up the police department’s chain of command.
Once the battle heats up, McQ literally brings out the big guns when he digs out the Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun that he wisely removed from his car trunk following its destruction.
McQ is often credited with introducing the MAC-10 to the general public, developing wider consciousness of the weapon and greater demand for it. It had been developed a decade earlier by George B. Ingram, but it wasn’t introduced until 1970 for three years of production by Military Armament Corporation (MAC). The “MAC-10” nomenclature is an unofficial one as it is officially abbreviated as the “M-10” or “M10”.
Designed purely for functionality, the MAC-10 is an ugly weapon, built from steel stampings and feeding from a box magazine in the grip that either carries 32 rounds of 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition or 30 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition; McQ’s particular MAC-10 is the latter .45-caliber model.
If the MAC-10 with its big two-stage suppressor looks familiar to you, it may be from seeing a similar weapon handled by Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, featured in last week’s post.
According to Jack Lewis’s Assault Weapons, the MAC-10 gained a quick – and deserved – reputation for inaccuracy with IACP weapons researcher David Steele describing the weapon as “fit only for combat in a phone booth.” This frequent criticism of the MAC-10 was rectified with the development of a two-stage suppressor by Sionics, designed by Mitchell Werbell III.
Nearly a foot long, this two-stage suppressor also served two purposes; it greatly reduced the sound of the weapon firing, muting almost all but the bolt cycling, and also served as a foregrip to steady the weapon when used with a Nomex cover as suggested by the U.S. Army. A second hand would certainly come in handy with a weapon firing .45 ACP rounds at a rate of 1,090 rounds per minute.
For more info about the guns of McQ as well as photos of the film’s actual weapons, supplied by Long Mountain Outfitters, check out the IMFDB page.
How to Get the Look
John Wayne’s rugged and classic tweed-centered ensemble serves him ably as he battles the bad guys in the final act of McQ.
- Gray taupe-striped birdseye tweed single-breasted 3-button sportcoat with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, double vents
- Sky blue poplin shirt with large semi-spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and 2-button rounded barrel cuffs
- Crimson red repp tie with thin navy/beige/navy R-down-L stripes
- Taupe wool flat front trousers with wide belt loops, side pockets, button-through jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with brass single-prong buckle
- Tan leather belt holster for full-size semi-automatic pistol
- Black leather slip-on loafers
- Black socks
- Khaki raincoat with 5-button covered fly front, set-in sleeves with 1-button cuffs, handwarmer pockets, and single back vent
- Plain brass “Montagnard Bracelet”
- Yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with silver dial (with three sub-dials) and olive vinyl buckle-strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I’m up to my butt in gas!